Yes, planning very much involves choosing between alternative courses of action.
Planing, also called decision making, is one of the primary function of all managers. The process of planning consists of the following steps.
- Problem identification or objective setting. All managerial actions are directed towards solving some problem faced in the work being managed, or to achieve some objective. Planning is basically the process of determining how this can be done. But before we start to decide on action to be taken, it is good to have clarity on the purpose of actions - the problem to be solved or the objective to be achieved.
- Data collection. This is the step when we collect the data and information on what is possible, what are the factors impacting the problem, what resources available, and the like. More information we have better it is. But information gathering costs time and money and a trade of must be made between value and cost of additional Information.
- Analysing the information. This is done to understand interrelationship between various aspects of the problem and its solutions.
- Identifying alternative courses of action. Partly these will become clearer with data collection and analysis. However, it is always better to search for and develop innovative solution. This calls for adoption of a lateral thinking approach.
- Evaluating the alternatives. In this step we examine the cost and benefits of each alternative. Often this analysis will show one alternative to be clearly better than others. In other situations, this may involve choosing between conflicting objectives and criteria.
- Choosing the best alternative. This is really the core of planning - choosing the best possible alternative. But unless we go through the earlier steps we may not be able to know clearly what alternatives exist, and what are the implication of choosing any one.
- Detailing the alternative. Working out the finer details of the chosen alternative course of action necessary for practical implementation.
- Monitoring and control.